The mama: You might know East Passyunker Bethany Castillo Cann as the owner of (and teacher for) Songbird Music. (Or maybe you don’t: Songbird is still pretty new, having launched just this past fall!) Bethany, who taught middle schoolers music in Philly schools for some 12 years, focuses on babies and kids of all ages at South Philly’s Lilypad and the East Passyunk Community Rec Center. (*More details on classes below!!) She’s something of a musical dynamo — during class, she plays the guitar, ukulele and mandolin (in addition to singing, of course). “I really love to have kids of all different ages in the class because the songs and activities we can do are so varied, and they learn from each other no matter what age,” Bethany says. (Note: She also does birthday parties, events, small-group music classes and private lessons.) But that’s not her only job — she’s also a childcare provider (“part-time and occasional care for infants through school-aged kids”) and, of course, a mom — her son Luke is four. Also, as it turns out, she’s got an amazing array of go-tos in the city for families, many of which were new to us. Check it out below!
Where does your little one attend school? He attends South Philly Coop Playschool. This school is much more than a school — it’s also a supportive community of parents!
Favorite kids’ classes: We really like the Fitness Alive Family Swim at Fitness Works! Holly is great. We are planning to start swimming lessons in the new year.
Best way to spend a Saturday afternoon as a family: An outdoor adventure at Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum. We especially love the big bridge with its beautiful views of special birds and the little cabin. It’s also a good place to ride bikes away from busy roads! Heinz has a small indoor museum in addition to the expansive outdoor areas.
Parents’ class: Blossoming Bellies Classes. Britt was so helpful during Birth Class and Infant Nutrition/Solid Food class. Her monthly new-parent meetups were crucial during those first few months.
Date night: My husband and I met salsa dancing at Estilo Dance Studio (now located in Fishtown), so on our dates we like to go salsa dancing at either Estilo or at Brasil’s nightclub in Old City.
Hidden gem: The Spanish language story time at Charles Santore Library. This story time is great whether your child speaks Spanish or English, or both. The songs are easy to understand and learn even without a background in Spanish. Another favorite is the American Swedish Museum Toddler Time. The museum has a Pippy Longstocking playhouse that’s totally worth getting there early for! All the activities and snacks are coordinated around a theme, and it’s very engaging for the kids and adults. Our favorite was when they brought Delilah the milk cow and made homemade butter!
Rainy day go-to: Please Touch Museum is heaven for my car-and-truck lover! He could spend all day there and not get bored.
Holiday tradition (any holiday): Hayride and pumpkin-picking at McCann Farm in NJ. It’s a cute little family-run farm — relaxing and not too expensive. We’ve been going there for three years now.
Favorite fast massage or spa treatment or some other treat for you: Acupuncture with Lauren Buckley at South Philly Community Acupuncture.
Family-friendly restaurant: Green Eggs in East Passyunk We go early to beat the rush, and there are always several other families there. We always have great service, and we all love the food!
Favorite cultural activity: El Dia de Los Muertos at Fleisher Art Memorial. This event is just awesome! This year there was a traditional drumming group, an elaborately decorated altar, a Mariachi band, a taco truck, traditional life-sized puppets, face-painting and more.
Gear you can’t live without: When Luke was smaller I wore him a lot. My favorite carrier was a Girasol Woven wrap. It was so nice to not have to bring the stroller plus its was great exercise for me!
Person/professional you can’t live without: Christy Santoro — a midwife at Motherland Midwifery. She was a huge support through several pregnancy losses.
Indulgence you can’t live without: Churros from Las Rosas Cafeteria y Panaderia at 8th and Watkins (Get there early! They usually run out by midday!)
Place for baby/children’s gifts: Cloth and Tildie’s Toybox. Both of these women have chosen really wonderful items for their stores, and they are both so helpful! I’m so lucky to have both of these stores just blocks away on Passyunk Avenue.
Favorite children’s book right now: When Christmas Feels Like Home (Gretchen Griffith). This book is about a boy who moves with his family from a small town in Mexico to the United States and tries to adjust while missing his life in Mexico.
Favorite outdoorsy thing to do with kids: Planting trees with Philly Tree People. They are very welcoming to kids and families. And kids get their hands dirty doing all the same jobs as the adults! We look forward to planting days in November and April.
Fun kids party spot: Lilypad
Best piece of advice you’ve gotten about parenting: Kids have so much to teach us — about themselves and about ourselves — if we listen!
Any mom’s groups you love? KSOW/Lilypad Community and the moms/dads at South Philly Coop Playschool. Both groups have been great places to ask questions, be exposed to new ideas in parenting and become part of a community.
Best parenting book you read: The Aware Baby by Aletha Solter.
Favorite toy in your house right now: Duplo blocks with wheel pieces.
Favorite community service opportunity for kids: We volunteer with Friends of Penn Treaty School (FoPT) in Fishtown. Our meetings and events are family-friendly (read: Meetings are early with food and children’s activities provided) so I can bring my son with me. He — and all the kids who attend — are considered full members of the group. It’s empowering for kids, and they get the opportunity to interact with lots of different kinds of people while learning what service to the community means. (Full disclosure: I am one of the co-leaders of Friends of Penn Treaty!)
One thing you wish Philly had that it doesn’t: Big back yards (at least not in South Philly).
Best part of raising kids here: We can walk so many places, there is so much diversity in people and activities available to us!
*About those Songbird classes ….
Bethany teaches two drop-in Family Music Jam classes a week. The price is $12 per family; $10 for Lilypad members; $45 for a 5-class card. The Monday class is at 4:30 p.m. at Lilypad (1234 S. Broad St.); the Tuesday class is at 10:30 a.m. at East Passyunk Community Recreation Center (11th and Mifflin). Both classes are open to babies and kids of all ages with their caregivers. “We sing lots of familiar songs and learn some new songs,” Bethany says. “I also include several songs in different languages each week. We use our bodies to move as we sing; we also play instruments, including drums. I encourage parents to sing and play instruments because that is how the children will learn and gain the confidence to sing and play themselves … by hearing their parents sing, in class, but especially at home.” The goal for the classes? “For the family to be able to have a fun, relaxing and bonding experience together, while at the same time learning lots of songs to sing at home together.”